You hardly knew
how hungry you were
to be gathered in,
to receive the welcome
that invited you to enter
You began to breathe again…
You learned to sing.
But the deal with this blessing
is that it will not leave you alone,
will not let you linger…
this blessing
will ask you to leave,
not because it has tired of you
but because it desires for you
to become the sanctuary
that you have found…

Jan Richardson

Richardson begins with hunger. And so do we. Just saying the word “belonging” conjures it up: The
primal hunger to be included; the longing to be let in. No one likes standing outside the circle. No
one likes leaning against the locked door listening while everyone is laughing inside. From the time
we are little, belonging is the thing we seek. It’s the hoped for Holy Grail. The promised resting place

But Richardson will have none of that. Our own belonging is only the beginning. That’s what she
wants us to know. One minute she’s wrapping us in comforting words about settling in and allowing
ourselves to finally breathe. The next she’s shaking us awake and telling us to get up and go.

That shaking should tell us something.

In other words, this is no gentle invitation, friends. No sweet reminder to think of others. It’s a
warning. A desperate hope that we will wake to the fact that there are two kinds of belonging: one
that wants to bless us and another that wants to enlist us.

Deep down we know this. The hard part is to remember it. To use Richardson’s language, if we find
ourselves being invited to linger rather than leave, alarm bells should go off. We need to be weary of
those who welcome us with a club jacket and a soft couch. They may have let us in, but soon they
will enlist us into the work of keeping others out. There will likely even be a part of us that wants to
keep others out. After all, closed circles don’t just set us apart, they sit us above.

But they also keep us small. Maybe this is why Richardson’s blessing is so intent on not leaving us
alone. It knows that we only grow when the circle does. Circles that keep others out also keep the air
out. No one inside a closed circle truly sings; they only suffocate, slowly.

It’s all one big reminder that the true blessing of belonging is not that you get to come inside the
circle; it’s that you get to participate in expanding it. Again, as the circle grows so do we

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